Salma Hayek is set to play a homely heroine in an English version of the worldwide-hit, Spanish-language soap "Betty La Fea."

The new one-hour drama/comedy is in development at ABC and is a return to Hayek's telenovela roots. She was a Mexican soap star before she moved to the United States in the 1990s.

The ABC show is based on the popular Colombian TV series about a plain-Jane secretary who's a loser in love, a winner in the stock market and in love with her handsome boss.

When "Betty La Fea" — which translates roughy into "Betty the Ugly" or just plain "Ugly Betty — first aired in Latin America in 1999, it became an overnight sensation.

The series was a surprise phenomenon in a culture where every other show was dominated by leggy women in skimpy outfits. At the time, more than 60 percent of Columbia's population tuned in five nights a week.

In 2001, the show aired in the U.S. on Telemundo to smash ratings. In New York alone, ratings jumped more than 413 percent when it was on.

The show became a huge hit wherever it played — dubbed in dozens of langauges, including Hebrew so it could be aired in Israel.

American TV has been trying for several years to come up with an American version.

NBC tried in 2001 to turn it into a half-hour show but never got past the development stages.

Fans of the show say its message that intelligence and integrity can triumph over skin-deep beauty was a major reason for its success.

Viewers got to watch as Betty, a lowly employee, who struggled at first in a business obsessed with beauty and then gradually gained self-confidence, wealth and eventually bought the company.

The show's star, gorgeous Ana Maria Orozco, reportedly spent at least 40 minutes with make-up artists each day to be turned ugly.